- The pandemic has succeeded in recognizing hitherto less cared about the class of workers on the ground helping the administration in more ways than one. Apart from the medical fraternity, the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) were also in the forefront truly and bravely carrying out such humongous responsibilities entrusted to them. That they were not only lauded by the Prime Minister himself but also gratefully called such workers as frontline warriors duly acknowledging their primacy in supporting the administration. Make no mistake, the Asha workers are the foot-soldiers of India’s public health system who exhibited tremendous diligence during the pandemic by carrying out entrusted responsibilities with panache.
PC: Dr. Shabir Moosa
- But for their selfless contributions, the country would have suffered even more damages vis-à-vis the government’s efforts in addressing public health challenges. When everybody else was apprehensive to reach out to infected citizens during the early days of the pandemic, the Asha workers were on the forefront conducting house visits, village surveys, rapid antigen tests, and even offering rudimentary first aid care for flabbergasted Covid patients by distributing paracetamol tablets, wherever required. Note that scores of these workers carried out these tasks in the absence of adequate protective gear or thermometers, and oximeters.
- Against this backdrop, it pains to see these workers agitating for enhanced salaries and allowances for performing high-risk duties as the pandemic continues to rage across the country. Any sensible citizen would be dismayed to know about the salary structure of these unheralded workers despite carrying out the hazardous job. It is a paltry Rs. 5000 to Rs. 10000 and it varies from state to state. In this age of aspirations and costlier living standards, the salaries of ASHA workers are not only abysmal but also a pittance considering the number of responsibilities entrusted.
PC: Preeja Prasad
- Bowing to protests, Maharashtra last week has revised their monthly honorarium from Rs. 5000 to Rs. 6000 accompanied by an Rs. 500 Covid duty allowance. Most disappointingly, their monthly take-homes are even lower elsewhere. Similar protests have raged in several MP districts since June as well in Karnataka earlier too. Now, the Asha workforce stands at a healthy 10-lakh strong corps since its launch in 2006. What started initially by accompanying pregnant women for institutional deliveries and motivating child immunization, their inspired role during the pandemic is no less than defining, to say the least.
- Agreed they are volunteers but sticking to dirt cheap wages don’t do justice to either the job risks or their criticality as last-mile public health workers in villages. This amounts to exploitation and should be addressed forthwith. When the Seventh Pay Commission recognized Rs. 18000 as the minimum pay for the lowest-ranked central employee, Asha workers receiving pittance as honorarium is laughable and unacceptable. Something substantial vis-à-vis awarding wages should be considered. Such a move would do a world of good to boost their morale leading to more intent and verve whilst serving the needy.